Tour of Hainan 2018 : Italy’s Jakub Mareczko opened his account in style in the opening stage of the 13th edition of the Tour of Hainan. The Wilier Triestina rider outsprinted Switzerland’s Dylan Page and his compatriot Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) in Danzhou.
Mareczko won five stages last year and the first of his 39 Asian victories out of 53 in total up to date on the paradisiacal Chinese island in 2015.
“I’m happy to win stage 1 this time”, said Mareczko who previously needed at least a day to find the right timing. “My teammates positioned me very well for this sprint. I don’t know what happened behind me. I just know some riders went down. We were at the front of the peloton for the last 10 kilometres.”
After a very competitive start, Liu Jianpeng and Zhang Zheng (Hengxiang), Niu Yikui (Mitchelton-BikeExchange), Ivar Slik (Monkey Town), Li Zisen (Qinghai Tianyoude) and Joab Schneiter (Switzerland) took off after 15 kilometres. They got a maximum advantage of 1:20.
In a highly contested intermediate sprint at half way, Zhang bettered Niu to move into the lead of the best Asian rider competition at the end of the day. After 50km of racing, Slik and Schneiter forged on, later reinforced by Mongolia’s Tegshbayar Batsaikhan of RTS, who bridged the gap by himself with 20km to go.
Eventually, it all came back together when Wilier Triestina put the hammer down 10 kilometres before the finish.
“The last seven kilometres were contested on a very high tempo,” said runner-up Page. “There was some headwind in the final straight line. We thought we’d have to launch the sprint the latest possible. We have a nice Swiss national team this year with strong rouleurs and good climbers, so I get a better support than last year to lead me out. That’s why I was more confident for today’s stage.
“Fabian Lienhard stayed with me to protect me. I managed to follow the right wheel, which was Mareczko’s. 100 metres before the line, I tried to pass him. I felt strong but I cracked at 50 metres to go. It’s a good way to start the Tour of Hainan. It’s a morale booster for more sprinting stages to come.”
“It didn’t go as we planned at the beginning,” third placed Belletti echoed. “It’s been chaotic in the last 5km so it was very difficult to keep the wheels of my team-mates. I found them again 800 metres before the end but that meant doing a sprint before the sprint, and unfortunately, I was missing some energy for the final part. We want to do better in the coming sprint finishes.”
New race leader Mareczko informed that he won’t necessarily be the top end sprinter for Wilier Triestina in the next few days as the Italian team also features Luca Pacioni. This is Mareczko’s last race for the team he joined three years. Aged 24, he’ll step up to the WorldTour with CCC next year.
“I’ve enjoyed a lot of successes in Asia so far,” Mareczko said. “But this Tour of Hainan might not be the end of my story over here. There’s also a WorldTour race in China [the Tour of Guangxi] and I’d be happy to come back.”